Responding to the National Development Plan, Fianna Fáil’s Health Spokesperson, Billy Kelleher has said that the Government can promise the sun, the moon and the stars in terms of extra spending and extra capital projects, but unless patients see actual, real time reductions in terms of their waits for accessing basic yet important treatments, it will be a failure.

“Everything that has been announced in the NDP sounds great; how could it not be given the amount of effort Leo’s Spin Unit has put into it?

“It’s an all too often repeated line, but it holds true that the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

“Historically, as a country, we have placed far too great an emphasis on the inputs being put into services, such as additional money, additional buildings and additional staff numbers. That’s completely the wrong way of looking at our health service.

“The only correct way to measure a health service is by how patients are treated, and increasingly, by how quickly patients are treated.

“Announcements of additional beds and hospitals are all well and good, but will a pensioner who needs a cataract operation still be waiting 18 months or more next year or in five years for the procedure they need to maintain their quality of life and independence?

“Previously, we have seen announcements on health that failed to materialise. Remember James Reilly’s 35 primary care centre announcement in 2012? By July 2017, just one was in use.

“Let’s not forget the National Children’s Hospital which Minister Reilly claimed ‘could be completed by end of 2017, and certainly early 2018’. It’s now early 2018, the project has not doubled in cost to over €1 billion and it won’t be open until at least 2020 or 2021.

“Fine Gael in health talks a good game, but time and time again, their plans fail to materialise.

“This week, Health Minister, Simon Harris said that waiting lists would only be reduced when the new hospitals are built. Is he really telling the Irish people that they will have to wait 10 years for a decent health service?

“I dearly want the projects announced today to get up and running so that they can improve the health services on offer to the Irish people, but I have my doubts about Fine Gael’s ability to deliver them.

“The only metric on which I will measure the success or failure of the health elements of the National Development Plan will be how quickly, effectively and efficiently patients are treated.

“That’s what our citizens care about – they don’t care how much of their own money the State is spending. They appreciate that money is being spent on health, and will always be spent on health. They just want to see their loved ones being treated with compassion and in a timely manner,” concluded Kelleher.